Anchor of Hope seeks to provide more Catholic school tuition assistance

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PAWTUCKET — Following a year in which five Catholic Schools were forced to close, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin, students and local business leaders announced a new program to increase the affordability of Catholic school for families seeking a faith-based education for their children.

With an emphasis on building partnerships with local businesses, two checks totaling $9,000 were presented to the bishop to kick-off the Anchor of Hope “Sponsor a Student” program during a press conference held last Tuesday at St. Teresa School.

Until this year, Anchor of Hope was funded primarily through support from large corporations.

The new program will continue accepting support from these corporations, but will also build relationships with individuals and members of the local small business community. Not only will businesses be able to write-off their donations, they will also make an investment in the future workforce of Rhode Island by helping to defray tuition expenses for Catholic school students.

"Catholic education is an education steeped in moral and ethical tradition,” noted Samuel Ragosta, assistant director of Stewardship and Development for Catholic Education, who is coordinating the new scholarship program. “I believe in what a Catholic education provides our Catholic school students. In my opinion, we are not just providing a quality education that focuses on academic subject matter; rather, we are offering an education that transforms students into the next generation of faith-filled men and women of our world. It is an education that is founded on the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Catholic schools across the United States face significant economic challenges. Yet, even in the face of these hurdles the Catholic school system continues to accomplish its mission: providing young people, irrespective of race, gender, ethnicity or religious affiliation, with excellence in education so that they can become productive members of society. The Anchor of Hope Fund is a vital component to keeping this promise.

“Catholic schools in Rhode Island and throughout the country are facing tremendous challenges relative to enrollment and affordability” said Bishop Tobin.

“Through this new ‘Sponsor a Student’ programI am hopeful that more families will realize the dream of an affordable Catholic education for their children to grow intellectually and in their faith. With support from the business community, together we can form tomorrow’s workforce with a firm foundation in morality through their Catholic school experience.”

The bishop emphasized that as the diocese focuses on evangelization, Catholic education is a very important component of that process. Catholic education not only teaches “new disciples” about church doctrine, but also instills students with the values and morals that will help them become community leaders and be of service to others.

“We can really make a difference for individual students and families,” Bishop Tobin added.

The Diocese of Providence and those who have partnered with it are committed to making Catholic education affordable for all who desire it. The diocese is moving to forge fruitful partnerships to benefit all Rhode Islanders who have a stake in the excellence Catholic education provides, which benefits the common good.

Victoria Almeida, partner at Adler, Pollock and Sheehan and president of the R.I. Bar Association and former Lt. Gov. Bernard Jackvony, an attorney at Pannone Lopes Devereaux & West LLC, presented two separate $4,500 checks to provide immediate resources for the “Sponsor a Student” program. The checks represented donations made by the respective law firms.

"That I may be successful today is a testament not only to the good education that I received but also to the great values imparted to me about my faith,” said Almeida. “St. Paul reminds us that faith without good works is empty. That is why I am committed to announcing the good news of Catholic education to all I meet and to work to insure that all children are welcome to sit at the table of plenty which Catholic education sets before our young people."

“I will forever be grateful for the education I received as a child in the Providence public school system and for the years I attended Catholic schools,” recalled Jackvony. “With the challenges faced by educators in classrooms today, it is a credit to the Diocese of Providence schools that 99 percent of the students attending Catholic schools graduate from high school, of which nearly all pursue higher education. This is an accomplishment by the Catholic schools, the teachers and students and their families, that we can all be very proud of. As chair of the Anchor of Hope “Sponsor a Student” campaign, please join me in helping a child fulfill their dreams and reach their potential.

“‘Hope’ is one of the smallest words in the English language, but it speaks volumes,”?Jackvony emphasized.

Dr. Camille Brown, assistant superintendent of Catholic schools, said that without financial assistance, many families, especially those in urban areas, could not afford to send their children to Catholic schools.

“It’s vitally important,” she said. “There are children in our schools who wouldn’t be able to attend. The values-based education that they receive helps them through their entire lives. We may not see the results, but the results will come.

Junishia Fofana, 13, noted that without an Anchor of Hope Scholarship, she would not be enrolled at St. Teresa School, where the eighth grader’s favorite subjects are computers and literature.

“My parents want me to have a superior education, which not only teaches academics, but also teaches Christian values and how to love one another,” she said. My parents are not able to pay full tuition but are grateful for the financial help over the years. I have received an Anchor of Hope Scholarship since it began. Without this help, I would not have been able to graduate from St. Teresa’s. I have a huge dream of attending St. Mary Academy-Bay View, but my parents told me this dream is too big. I know that it is very expensive but my secret hope is that I may be able to receive more scholarships.”

The Diocese of Providence will appeal to local businesses to “Sponsor a Student” to help struggling families provide their children with a Catholic education and in turn, keep schools open. Last year, five Catholic schools were forced to close their doors because of declining enrollment and building maintenance costs.

Through the Anchor of Hope Fund, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence is committed to making a quality, Catholic education available to those with a demonstrated need for financial assistance. Catholic schools nurture faith, achieve academic excellence and instill values of loving-service which benefits deserving students and our society.

Since 2002, 662 Catholic school students have received a total of $1,373,250 in tuition assistance through Anchor of Hope: 476 in Catholic elementary schools and 186 in Catholic high schools.

Assistant editor Brian J. Lowney contributed to this story.